Friday, December 26, 2014

Pinterest: Curiosity, Collecting, Connecting!

Pinterest for Spring 2015! Because I am a total teacher nerd, I wanted to spend this lovely holiday Friday by playing with Pinterest, learning more about how to use it well, and then figuring out how to help my students play and learn with Pinterest this Spring. The result: I just finished writing up the Pinterest assignment for Orientation week in my class, along with some extra Tech Tips to help students make good use of Pinterest. I am really excited to see what will happen with Pinterest next semester. For Fall, I had encouraged students to use Twitter or Pinterest, and Pinterest was by far the preferred option. So, I will get things off to a good start in Spring by having every student create a Pinterest Board. Then, for the rest of the semester, students can continue to use their Board for extra credit... and I really hope that they will. It is a great tool for pursuing anything you are curious about, collecting the results, and then sharing what you found with others!

Pinterest Expertise. The Tech Tips I wrote up are meant to help people make really good use of Pinterest. Luckily for me, Pinterest is a really simple tool that does not have a lot of options — which is good! Someone can become a true Pinterest expert with just a tiny investment of time. Here are the tips I wrote up for my students today:
  • Pinterest for Discovery and Learning. This is absolutely the most important of the tips. I really hope I can show people who powerful Pinterest is for SOCIAL discovery and learning.
  • Pinning Blog Posts. This is actually two tips in one: I really need to help my students understand what it means to link to a blog post, as opposed to a blog homepage, archive page, label page, etc.
  • Pinterest Buttons and Bookmarklets. This is a productivity tip: for me, having a browser button is a big part of making sure that I use Pinterest multiple times every day... it's right there in the browser bar.
  • Editing Pinterest Pins. This is another two tips in one item: it's about editing pin descriptions but it is also about Pinterest search, which really depends on good descriptions.
  • Share Pinterest Pins on Twitter. I cannot believe I did not have this integration turned on already: DOH! This is something actually way more useful for me than for my students, but for the students who are active Twitter users, this could be a useful tip indeed. 
  • Pinterest Board Widget. It was the popularity of this tip last semester which made me focus on Pinterest this semester. Hardly any students added a Twitter widget to their own blog, but lots of them did a Pinterest widget!
I really enjoy writing up these tips because my goal is not so much a do-this-then-that type of tutorial. Instead, my goal is to relate the tool to the kinds of learning activities that will be really rewarding in the context of my classes. So, the tips are partly about using Pinterest, but they really are about LEARNING with Pinterest, i.e. using the tool to further learning goals of the class overall.

It's Personal. I mean this in two senses... two good senses! Pinterest is a "personal" tool that I use every single day, so my motivation in sharing this tool with my students is really to share the fun and excitement that I experience from using Pinterest; Pinterest really IS fun in a way that other bookmarking tools like Diigo are not. Pinterest is also "personal" in the sense that it is a tool for meeting people and for connecting with other people who share your interests. That's why writing up the Pinterest for Discovery and Learning tip was the most fun of all, showing students how they can follow a pin to a person and then see what interests they might share with that person. For the kinds of topics that we study in my classes, there are some really passionate people out there who are using Pinterest as a way to share what they love. I hope that this tool can become a new way for students to connect and share with one another, and also to connect and share with other Pinterest users.

Inoreader and Pinterest. Using Pinterest is also a part of my increased use of Inoreader in my classes, but the RSS that Pinterest supplies is dodgy at best, so I have not told my students anything about Pinterest RSS. It's VERY weird: there really and truly is Pinterest RSS for any given Board, and Inoreader has made it super-easy to subscribe to a Board — just paste the Board address into the Inoreader add box, and Inoreader will then discover the RSS for you (Inoreader is so fabulous that way!). What's weird, though, is that at least once a week, and sometimes more often, I get pin-bombed, with the RSS feed for a Board I am subscribed to suddenly having a couple dozen new pins from some OTHER Board. The pins are NOT at my Board (thank goodness!), but they do show up in the RSS for the Board.This is pretty distressing because the pins are totally random (there's truly no rhyme or reason to where they come from, although they do all come from the same Board; thank goodness I have not had anything actually porn-like... yet). Worse, once they are there in Inoreader, there is no way to remove them since Inoreader assumes (rightly so) that a feed is a feed and users should be marking things as read/unread, not actually removing items.

My efforts to get Pinterest customer service to acknowledge this problem went nowhere because... they deny even offering RSS at all! How weird is that?! I should note that the guys at Inoreader were great about helping me to troubleshoot this problem, but in the end all they could say was that there is something wrong with the Pinterest feeds, and apparently they have seen similar problems with eBay feeds.

So, I will be subscribing to my students' Pinterest Boards, and I will probably be resharing pins in a class Pinterest feed which will be really fun to make... but that will have to be manual. Because of the pin-bombing, I cannot afford the risk of automatically resharing my students' pins since the pins might not be from my students at all! I am really curious, in fact, to see how intense the pin-bombing will be when I am subscribed to 100 Pinterest Boards in Inoreader as opposed to the 10 or so Boards I am subscribed to now.

My Pinterest Routine. One thing I definitely need to ponder before the semester starts is my own Pinterest routine. In the Fall, I got in the habit of pinning every new Storybook to a board dedicated to that purpose, and I also pinned a lot class-related resources that I found as I was doing research related to the students' projects. Those were good routines, and I will carry on with both of them for sure. Now, though, with the Pinterest-Twitter integration (I just started using that today!), I think I will be doing a lot more with Pinterest, creating some more substantial overlap between Pinterest and Twitter. Last semester, I used Pinterest to archive a lot of content from Twitter, but next semester I need to think about how I can use Pinterest to generate an even more rich and stimulating Twitter feed for my classes. Plus, of course, I will be using Inoreader to watch my students' Pinterest Boards, and that is going to be really cool!

Commercial Services. One more note: I learned some great things about the Indie Web movement from Connected Courses, and that is definitely something I want to learn more about in the coming year. At the same time, I just cannot let myself pass up this great opportunity to help my students learn how to use Pinterest as a really fun and surprisingly powerful research tool. The reason that the Pinterest discovery process is so great is because there are billions of pins. The sheer quantity of data there is what allows Pinterest to make really good guesses about other websites I might want to look at. There are all kinds of people out there using Pinterest, pinning all kinds of webpages. Pinterest apparently has about 70 millions users now in 2014, and they have pinned 30 billion items at 750 million boards. Wow.

So, lots to ponder, lots to do: all good stuff! I'll label this for Connected Courses (because it's #notover)... and also for OU CTE (Center for Teaching Excellence), hoping that maybe 2015 will be the year that CTE creates a blog hub where those of us who are really keen on technology and teaching can start sharing ideas online at last!

And to those of you who are Pinteresting, happy pinning, everybody! :-)


  1. Mostly, I've used Pinterest for local projects and events. You can also embed videos in Pinterest ~ looked up easy instructions but never got around to trying it. I have all my boards on a single feed (for my version on omni folder). I haven't noticed pin-bombing. Then again, I haven't been paying attention but may now. Have you noticed any kind of pattern to the pin bombing?

  2. No pattern but the variety of Boards that got merged in to my feeds has been pretty funny to see: vintage toys, weird public art, make-up ads. Each time different, and no repeats, different Boards of mine each time. SO WEIRD. It's definitely a creepy feeling when it happens, like having total strangers put up art on your walls, ha ha. For the video, if you just pin a YouTube page, it will grab the video. I've never actually uploaded any videos of my own; I'm always just pinning other pages, not uploading anything. :-)


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